Behavior · Business

The real price of a dollar.

When you spend 100 dollars or whatever your local currency is, you may think “hey 100 dollars for that product isn’t a bad deal!”. But I am going to tell you that a 100 dollar price-tag does not mean the product costs you 100 dollars.

Let me explain. To get 100 dollars in your pocket, you had to earn more than 100 dollars and then pay income tax on it. Lets say you have 33% total income tax, then you actually had to earn 150 dollars to get 100 dollars in your pocket. So when you merrily see something that costs 100 dollars and think “hey that’s a good deal!” then you should keep in mind that its actually 150 dollars.

Furthermore, people always quote the saying “time is money”, but I’d like to reverse that and say “Money is TIME”. Meaning, to make 150 dollars to end up with a net 100 dollars in your pocket, you had to work a certain amount of time. Lets say your income is 25 dollars an hour, then you had to work 6 hours to have the opportunity to earn 150 dollars to get 100 dollars in your pocket that you can spend on “that good deal”.

But that is not all. To have the opportunity to work for 6 hours, you had to have a roof over your head, food in your belly, heating, clothing, transportation, hygiene products, etc.

So lets say you work 7.5 hours a day (a Norwegian workday), 25 dollars an hour, 52 weeks a year (so paid holidays and such included, as Norwegians get). Then you earn 48 750 dollars, which for simplicity we can round to 50 000 because lets say you make a little bit extra on the side. Then you pay 33% taxes, and lets assume another 33% of your income is spent on housing, food, amenities, etc. This leaves you with about 17 000 dollars. Over twelve months that’s 1 416 dollars each month in pocket-money.

This means, when you buy a product that costs 100 dollars, what you’re actually saying is “I’m gonna trade over 2 days of my life, for this product”. Because each year you can buy about 170 items which each costs 100 dollars, so that’s one item about every two days.

Furthermore, if you buy something for 10 dollars, that’s about five hours of your life. What are the chances that what you’re buying will be five hours of enjoyment?

However, if we imagine that by some miracle you manage to save the entire 17 000 dollar sum of pocket-money and buy stocks for it, then you can expect between 4% and 8% return each year. which is 680 to 1 360 dollars, which is 2 to 4 weeks. If you then save the same amount of money for 10 years, with 6% average interest on interest, you end up with about 224 000 dollars saved up. Which is 13 years of pocket-money saved up in 10 years. If you keep going, you will end up with 1 000 000 dollars in 26 years, which is 58.8 years of pocket-money in 26 years.

So then you might think “hey with 17 000 spare cash each year, I can actually borrow quite a bit for a nice house!”. WRONG. You can borrow 270 000 dollars if you want to pay 17 000 a year for 26 years. Assuming 4% interest (that’s the US national average for 30 year fixed interest mortgages). So you can save 1 000 000 dollars in 26 years, or you can borrow 270 000 dollars in 26 years. Even if you are more pessimistic (or safer in investment risk) and assume 4% interest on savings as well as 4% on mortgage, then its still 750 000 dollars saved in 26 years, versus 270 000 dollars of debt paid down.

Even at only 4% interest on your savings, it would only take you 13 years to save up 270 000 and then buy the house in cash. HALF THE TIME compared to borrowing the money.

THIS is how the poor is kept poor. A culture that encourages debt. Credit cards, buy now pay later, three months free subscription, zero money down phones and cars, etc. Made doubly worse by planned obsolescence. Because you buy a new car every ten years (or even just a slightly newer used car), new phone every few years, new computer twice a decade, etc. And you often take on debt especially when you buy the car, and you might once in a while buy a phone on a subscription basis and a computer on a payment plan etc.

I believe the global economy is hurting from the amount of debt floating around. I could sell you a house in cash every 13 years, in this example, or I could let you borrow money to buy the house today and only sell you a house every 26 years. By culturally forcing debt on everyone, we are hurting our future prosperity. Because if I sell you something today chances are high you incur debt on that exchange, so it’ll be TWICE AS LONG until next time I can get your business.

We were originally in the mode of spending what we had in cash, most of the time. So you sold a 270 000 dollar house to someone (or its equivalent in other products) every 13 years. THEN some crafty pieces of shit decided to double dip in their generation, and offer to sell the same 270 000 worth of stuff TWICE in 13 years, with the second purchase being covered by credit. Then ever since we’ve been on the second type of operating mode, where we can only sell 270 000 worth of product to someone every 26 years in this example.

And because economists want endless growth they have therefore pushed for allowing people to incur more and more debt, because no generation of economists want to be the generation that takes the short-term hit of moving over to the cash mode from the debt mode.

Don’t encourage your kids to borrow money.

Behavior · Biotechnology · Philosophy

Have you noticed this new social taboo?

Recently I have noticed that people fear above all else to make a comment that the other party can not immediately answer.

The amount of different conversation topics used to be quite limited 100 years ago, because everyone had access to limited media and even more limited time to consume media. So it was difficult to even come up with a conversation topic that was not already a topic both parties were well-versed in.

Now however, we have seemingly endless new topics of conversation just from science that was published this year, and no one but the people who red those obscure papers have any idea what you’re talking about.

Which means, instead of topics of conversation becoming more complex over time as we get more scientific knowledge as a civilization to base conversations on, we have instead begun to make simpler conversations in a day to day basis. We no longer talk about that new flying machine breaking the sound barrier, we talk about that stupid comment made by XYZ on twitter. Instead of talking about things which require some response along the lines of “hm, I dunno yet, let me get back to you in a few weeks with my standpoint on that topic”, we talk about things where we immediately all bark out a response like “haha”, “lol” or “wtf”.

Even if you are an expert on some obscure scientific field, you hesitate to talk about it to anyone but those you know for certain will not be intellectually challenged by your question or comment.

It has come to the point where it is difficult for me to look at most social interactions as more than dogs barking. We seem to have three types of barks (topics of conversation):

  • “Ain’t this funny here let me show you” and the other party goes “yes” (ie bark).
  • “Ain’t this fucked up here let me show you” and the other party goes “yes” (ie bark).
  • “Here’s something that happened to me or someone else a time ago, acknowledge it” and the other party goes “yes” (ie bark).

Sometimes the latter is followed up by “lets repeat that some time, lets have another event like that”.

But basically, we shy away from important and worthwhile conversation topics, in favor of “fair weather topics” which require no brainpower to respond to immediately. Its as if the instant response of the internet, make us condition ourselves against topics that add a couple seconds to that response time.

And I think that is a dangerous road to continue down. Because if education does not teach people to respond to questions and views they can’t immediately respond to, then idiocracy is next.

If we let this taboo proliferate, we can forget about all the cures we wish happens in our lifetime (dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, etc). Because the new people in those fields won’t be able to get a straight answer from the old guard, and politicians won’t be able to answer simple questions from scientists, and thus funding does not happen and older experts don’t convey their expertise and half the people alive today (or even more) die from these things. Needlessly.


The Insulation Hypothesis

I want to put to “Paper” a hypothesis of mine. The more you insulate yourself from modern media, the more original ideas you can have. Even still 99/100 ideas will already exist, but my hypothesis is that if you drown yourself in media today, you’ll just go beyond 999/1000 ideas being already thought of.

I just had to put this on paper, because I think people in certain areas can recognize that they produce more the more they insulate themselves from other media (social media and feedback from others and movies, music, games, etc). I bet even engineers have more unique ideas if they insulate themselves from how it is already done, to reinvent the wheel, as it were.

There is no real way to test this scientifically, but I think it will help certain people if they keep an eye on how much time they spend getting “told no” by getting feedback via seeing how people already have done things. And this place is for the creme of intellectuals. Half the stuff here has never been put to paper anywhere else (the exception is the rejuvenation I talk about, which is reiteration of the rejuvenation scientists’ views).

Computer Games · Off Topic

Something funny about games.

We started out with no games.

Then we invented games (one of the earliest examples), and started playing against each other.

Then we started watching others play games.

Then we started watching others play games against computers.

Then we started playing games against computers.

Then we started watching others play games, on our computer.

Then we started watching computers play games against computers, on our computer.

And now, the Artificial Intelligence “Deepmind” AKA Alphastar, plays games against versions of itself and we do not even watch those games. We only watch a few games like these against humans, when we demonstrate how good a player Deepmind has become.

So when someone asks you what the purpose of the existence of the universe could be, maybe its for the universe to produce machines that play games against other machines, while no one observes them.

Biotechnology · Philosophy · Space

Science Fiction Or Science Fantasy?

My favorite piece of sci-fi is this:

Its a letter written by Leó Szilárd and signed by Albert Einstein, to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on August 2, 1939. It is the potential of what sci-fi could be: Practical advice, understanding, about what to do in the here and now to make a better future for the people alive right now. In this case advice on how to avoid a future where the Germans beat the Americans to a bomb that can wipe out entire ports all by itself. This one piece of science fiction provides insight into the implications of scientific discoveries that had yet to trickle down into the public consciousness. So that the reader could make sound decisions with practical benefit for the future.

What is my least favorite science fiction?

Every sci-fi author in the world right now always has a chapter in his/her book that says “We will make humans live longer with science“. But then they never bother to read up on the science, so they don’t actually mention any of the science. Nor the implications of said science. So no advice comes of the science.

  • The wealthy man who reads this chapter on longevity will not give money to anyone in the science in question. Why bother? It will eventually happen not in his lifetime, all by itself.

  • The nation leader who reads this chapter on longevity will not give any orders or make any laws that allow this industry to establish itself. Why bother? It will eventually happen not in his lifetime, all by itself.

  • The man in the street does not even save up a few pennies in case he needs a treatment before it becomes so cheaper to make people young than to give them a pension payment. Why bother? Such treatments will eventually happen not in his lifetime, and be given out freely to all those who never contributed to the research (in reality the state will take your pension plan and use it to pay to make you a young healthy adult again, then send you back to work, but only treatments that are cheap enough will be included, and you may need some before that happens).

  • A budding scientist does not know that this new field is a possible option. Why even bother checking if it is? Such a thing as reversing aging and making a bomb that wipes out an entire port, is obviously not going to happen in his/her lifetime.

And because the chapter in these sci-fi books that mention longevity don’t actually contain information, the result is that the entire book is just science fantasy that serves no purpose other than to be escapism for the reader (and to some extent escapism for the author). Because everything written in every piece of science fiction, will happen “not in my lifetime” of anyone who reads it.

But who cares? Making people younger is obviously impossible, just like those impossible individual bombs that wipe out entire ports. Obviously. Even today about 2/3 of a century after the atom bomb, the layman still doesn’t really understand how the latter is possible, we just take it for granted as truth because it happened.

And that is where I disagree with every other sci-fi content creator in the known universe. If they don’t understand aging to such an extent that they know some portion of those alive today will make it to longevity escape velocity, then they’re useless. Because everything they write will be written as if people won’t live to see it, and then people won’t behave in such a way that they actually WILL live to see it. If sci-fi authors don’t write as if rejuvenation will happen, there’s a good chance it won’t. At least it will be delayed by many decades compared to what would happen if we collectively lit a fire under the behind of anyone who could do something to help the research directly or indirectly.

Can you imagine if Einstein signed a letter that resulted in no actual action from the president? Can you imagine the potential catastrophe that could have happened if the letter was written as if the atom bomb was never going to happen in the lifetime of those who were alive at that time? The funding atomic research received at the time meant no one in their right mind would seriously think anyone would achieve an atomic bomb in world war 2. Maybe not even in the next 100 years after 1939.

But do you know how much money the Manhattan project cost? About 23 billion in 2018 dollars. But if you take a look at the trickle of money into atomic research before the Manhattan project, before the letter and others like it, it would have taken over a century to reach 23 billion dollars in atomic research. So if the president and the rest of the people at the top believed Einstein was off his tits and that atomic bombs would never happen, then the funding to make it happen would never have happened. Not on the American side anyway.

That is why it is dangerous for science fiction authors to not understand the cause of 2/3 of all deaths worldwide, namely aging. Because if these authors treat aging like we will never develop a way to intervene in aging in the lifetime of people alive today, then it will probably be delayed by decades if not more. But who cares about people alive today or even tomorrow? This is all just some fiction we the authors write for fun, for escapism, to dream ourselves away into a wonderful world instead of making a wonderful world. Much easier to just dream of one, it saves calories.

They should call low effort science fiction that makes zero attempt at being useful, for science fantasy. And then there will be a tiny portion of books left in the science fiction genre that attempt to offer insight that will be of practical to use to people that are alive today (And yes, my book will hopefully be one of them). These science fiction books will be for these types of people:

  • People who want to be the first investors in an industry that will be worth 2/3 of todays global healthcare costs (and 2/3 of todays pension costs), because that’s what you will be able to charge the world’s nations for rejuvenation treatments that keep the population as young and fit as 25 year old men and women. And the world’s nations will gladly pay that price because the old people will be young healthy people that can keep working.

  • Leaders that want their nation to have the biggest piece of this industry pie that will make the entire oil industry pie look like a medium income industry by comparison.

  • Students that want to do something important with lasting consequences for their lives and the lives of others.

  • Individuals who do not want to see their friends and family gradually go through four decades of declining health until they eventually have it so bad that they welcome death.

  • Individuals who don’t want to subscribe to the reproduction-theory of meaningful existence (this theory states that the only meaning you can get out of existence is to leave something behind when you die. Even though you are lucky enough to live in the precise moment in time when it is within reason to use those six adult decades you have available to do something to avoid dying altogether).

  • Individuals who don’t want to find themselves in the future wanting to live just a little bit longer, or wanting a little better health, but being unable to take treatments that offer these things because they never helped the research happen quickly enough. And then knowing they could have done something many decades earlier that would’ve given them this option. Namely helping a budding scientific field establish itself as a serious budget post on national research budgets.

Do you know how many atomic bombs would have had to be dropped every year to match the deaths by the seven aging processes if each bomb killed as many as it did in Hiroshima? About 350 bombs. 350 atomic bombs every single year, then you can adjust for population back to 1939 if you want. Every day we waste is one nuclear bomb worth of people who finally died after four decades of declining health and ability. And we are in the precise moment in technological development where it is feasible to change this.

Do you know what sum of money we spend on rejuvenation biotechnology, aka the field of intervening in the aging processes? Less than half of one percent of what we spend on anti-aging skin cremes that had to be proven to the FDA that they do absolutely nothing before they could be legally sold. You couldn’t even buy office supplies for the Manhattan Project with the total budget of rejuvenation biotechnology (not counting stem cell research which is technically also rejuvenation, but the only well funded piece of rejuvenation biotechnology).

If every sci-fi author continues to write as if rejuvenation biotechnology will not happen in the lifetime of the readers, then there’s a good chance it will be true. If however every sci-fi author starts to write as if rejuvenation biotechnology will happen in the lifetime of the readers, then there’s a good chance that will be true.

I do not want to see one more sci-fi computer game where advanced civilizations die from cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and so forth. These things are caused by the aging processes that they will have mastered long before faster than light travel.

I do not want to see one more sci-fi TV show where characters cross galaxies but can’t outlive a tortoise.

I do not want to see one more sci-fi movie where Asgardian Gods randomly die of aging (Thor: Ragnarok, I’m looking at you).

I do not want to see one more sci-fi book where the author clearly has zero knowledge about the seven aging processes. You sound like broken records that talk about how everything functions, from stars to advanced non-existent technologies. But then there always seems to be a record-player brrrrt sound where you skip the portion where an explanation of aging and its interventions would be. And because of it I have not seen anything new in science fiction in a decade. The authors I liked ten years ago put out copies of their previous work and call it a new book.

As an example, one of my favorite sci-fi authors is Michio Kaku. I really like his earlier books, but then his latest one, which even has a chapter touching on longevity, but there is no actual content there. And all the other chapters remain completely unaffected by the longevity bit. Yet, the idea that people will live a very long time changes everything about all the other chapters. It changes the type of projects people will actually decide to do, it changes what order people will do them in, it changes who and how projects are funded, it changes why projects are done and it changes how people travel between solar systems. Faster than light travel becomes an expensive luxury that no sane person will bother to spring for when they have all the time in the world to go slower and then be able to set sail sooner, as it were, because they spent less time building an interstellar spaceship when it no longer needs to travel faster than light. Longevity changes everything about a science fiction book if you just think about it for a moment with proper understanding of the aging processes.

Its difficult to explain how this understanding of aging changes everything. But lets do this thought-experiment: Even after the attack on Pearl Harbor, many admirals and ships captains still thought the battleship was the capital ship of choice. But that was because they did not understand the simple calculation of energy that you can do if you calculate the energy of a 500 kilogram bomb being dropped from several thousand meters altitude at the top of a ship. When you understand this simple calculation, you know big gun ships are history against the airplane. There’s just nothing that floats that can stop that sort of energy which the equation spits out. And some people who understood this formula, probably knew for decades that the battleship was a complete waste of money and that they should put all that money into airplane development and aircraft carriers instead.

In terms of aging, the perspective of time, indefinite lifespans in good youthful health, as long as you keep taking your treatments and researchers keep improving on these treatments, this understanding brings heaps of conclusions that remain hidden otherwise. Understanding that will make companies hire longevity philosophers in order to make decisions with this longevity in mind. Understanding that will make nations implement plans and strategies that over centuries will result in outcompeting another nation in a certain industry. Understanding that will make nations open up their borders for immigration (while ignorant nations shuns immigration). Understanding that will make companies and investors pay top dollar to secure top minds, minds who will never undergo diminishing mental ability because of aging. Minds that can remain the top experts indefinitely, securing an indefinite advantage in their field of expertise (As long as these experts keep up with the daily studying of lesser experts in daily hours, instead of resting on their laurels, then they will retain the lead). Understanding that will cause nations previously hostile to each other to suddenly start working together for some long term goal.

And understanding that will unfortunately cause a few bad apples to take revenge on those in position of power and wealth to help rejuvenation research, that they see as having been guilty of not doing their part to quicken the research. Research that could have saved the life of someone the bad apples cared for. If only it succeeded sooner. The day after the cure for cancer is announced on TV, will the news anchor say everyone are celebrating, or will the news anchor say; “Who is to blame for the millions of people that died of cancer while this research went at a snails pace during repeated pleas from the rejuvenation biotechnology community?”….

Philosophy · Space

“God made this universe for us” – How lethal is the universe, though?

Religious people of most faiths have the tendency to say “Look at these perfect conditions for life we have on Earth, the universe was clearly made by an intelligent being for us to exist here”. But that is just not the case.

A town not far from here is Karasjok, in winter its so cold that you can easily die just a kilometer from the nearest house. If its dark (which it usually is in winter) you can get lost a hundred meters from the nearest house. If its a snowstorm you can die a hundred meters from the nearest house. In summer the only food around is some minor wildlife, fish, reindeer, and a few berries. And that’s assuming you have the tools and time to gather such food.

But there’s an entire continent that is too cold for humans to survive without specialist equipment, Antarctica:

Even if you have all the specialist equipment you need to hunt and live and not freeze to death, you still lack the fuel to cook and retain heat. Unless you burn vast quantities of oil harvested from the local wildlife (seal, whale, etc). In Karasjok at least you have some firewood.

But even places not like this can be uninhabitable, like the Himalayas:

Some areas have no fish, no firewood, no wildlife (not anything you can catch anyway), you can’t even traverse much of the terrain.

But there are also places too warm and dry for us to survive there, like the Atacama desert:

If you account for all the hostile areas where people simply don’t live today, you end up having removed over 50% the landmass of Earth from your list of potential homes.

And even if the temperature is nice and temperate and have plenty of fish, if it has no land you can’t live there, I give you for example the Atlantic Ocean:

Oceans account for 70.8% of the surface area of the Earth. Even above it where there is air to breathe you can’t really live there. Everything you need would have to be imported if you did.

But then there’s the underwater area, even just a couple feet under water you can’t survive five minutes without diving equipment:

But most of the oceans are quite deep, there you couldn’t survive a minute even in diving equipment:

That’s just about the places on Earth that will be hostile to human beings. Even the friendly places tend to be dangerous because of natural disasters like flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, avalanches, thunderstorms, hail, etc.

Then there’s the species that are hostile to human beings.

We have polar bears, wolves, lions, sharks, even cows and rats are hostile to some extent and only kept at bay because of technology. Try standing between a hungry cow and a pile of hay, waving a gun, and the cow will run you down when its hungry enough. But these are the big stuff, these aren’t very dangerous, really. The really dangerous stuff is all the bacteria, fungi and viruses that tries to eat you or live as a parasite in/on you. Not to mention the insects and various other creepy crawlies that would eat you or kill you just to have somewhere to live, given half a chance. Even plants exist that would kill you. Even “harmless” plants like a pine tree will kill anyone it falls upon because trees aren’t soft woolly bouncy-castles made for humans to chop them down without risk.

So to summarize, over 85% of the Earth is hostile, and the lifeforms on Earth aren’t here to serve us. If you try to point at food crops and say “look these serve us”, those serve us because we have selectively decided which seeds to harvest, which to eat and which to plant. And food crops have a huge amount of predators, so humans aren’t alone in harvesting the fruits of our labor. Given half a chance insects, fungi, bacteria and other animals will eat the crops before we humans get the chance.

But then you go just 7.5 kilometers up (kilo = thousand) and then suddenly the lack of atmosphere makes sleep very difficult and digesting food becomes nearly impossible. So from Earth orbit:

If you are in the international space station you are at 408 kilometers altitude, and all the way down to about 10 kilometers is lethal. And if you look at the Earth from the moon, everything you see except a thin 10 kilometer layer on the blue marble is lethal:

And remember 85% of the blue thing is also practically lethal because you can’t live there. And you can easily get severe suffering and even serious death in the remaining habitable bit of the blue marble. Because of the life that is there. Not to mention natural disasters. Even the human body is a massive post all by itself in how many ways it is not made “for our existence”, merely for the spreading of our genes, but I cut that out because it was too graphic.

Everywhere else in the solar system is also lethal. Like for example we usually imagine Mars as a nearly habitable place:

But you would die instantly without a space suit, and slowly freeze to death even then if you can’t recharge the suit’s batteries/fuel cells from a habitat with substantial solar power resources. All these other places are also lethal. The dwarf planet Ceres:


The moon around Earth:

The moon Titan:

If we look at the volume of our solar system, it reaches out to about where the Voyager 1 spacecraft has gone. Based on the definition of how far our sun’s solar wind reaches to a certain degree. If the solar system volume is represented by the Earth you stand on, then the actual Earth can be represented by a piece of dust smaller than a grain of sand. And we can live on just 15% of the surface area of that grain of dust.

And then outside our solar system, between ours and other solar systems, is a vast emptiness with virtually no light except that which you see from the night sky. If we look at a galaxy like the Andromeda Galaxy (since we can’t take a photo of the galaxy we are in ourselves):

Then we represent our galaxy by imagining that it is really the size of our solar system, then our solar system is that grain of dust from earlier. And in that grain of dust is an atom that represents the Earth, and around that atom there is a single layer of electrons that represent the surface of the Earth, and we can live on 15% of that surface.

Then keep in mind that most dots on this picture is another galaxy.

The universe is more than 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% lethal to human beings.

So why are we here? Because of the sun vast amounts of energy hits our planet, and because of many coincidences this energy resulted in self-replicating molecules. And eventually because of chance, a technological species came into being. And this technological being now has the capacity, for the first time ever, to use scientific knowledge to intervene in the aging processes. And in doing so live in good health and youth forever. Long enough to save up for our own personal spacecrafts, and then set up mining on Ceres and the moon and asteroids. And then using the stuff we gather we can spread out into the vast deadliness of space.

But why do so? To survive the end of this deadly universe, in spite of its deadliness. How do we do this? That is what I explain in my book.

Computer Games

Roomba-Effect – A problem with RPG games of today.

An RPG (RolePlaying Game), to me, has a good story. Sure, choices in character class and such is good, to a degree.

But when its not optional to pick up everything I find its not enjoyable anymore. I walk through my environment in a systematic way so that I do not miss any trinkets, like a robotic vacuum-cleaner. Instead of enjoying the story. Many scenes have their magic lost because of this. For example in Mass Effect 2, (spoiler alert) when the character “Jack” escapes captivity and I’m “chasing” after her as fast as possible. That experience loses a lot of its weight when I’m urged to systematically search every room for something “useful”. “The prisoner is getting away!” is the story being told and I’m slowly making my way after the prisoner while picking pockets of dead enemies and searching the environment with a fine-toothed comb looking for safes to crack and computers to hack. Its like if in the first Die Hard movie, the main character spent an hour of movie run-time checking through drawers and checking what’s on people’s computers just in case one of the hostages are the inside man and just in case there might be some bandages and painkillers in a drawer somewhere. It would completely destroy the movie. But for some reason games are filled with this often counterproductive game-play element that subtracts from the value of the story.

This is silly.

Which is why I love Mass Effect 1, because you can grind top level gear in the Pinnacle Station expansion, then bring that equipment with you for a new playthrough of the game. So you can start with top equipment for all your squadmembers and yourself, top level with all skills unlocked, and just run through the story as the story begs to be played. Not picking up spare change from fallen foes, just hauling ass when you’re logically supposed to and not going “The people we’re going to save can wait, I have to hack this safe to steal some cash I might need later”.

But since the corners of the map still have trinkets in them, I still feel urged to explore the environment like a darn minesweeper or robotic vacuum-cleaner. Regardless of how urgent the scene intends to be. For example, at the end of the game I am about to meet the final boss and I’m supposed to leg it to a destination as fast as possible, to get my heart racing the music and visuals have been tailored to evoke a sense of urgency, and foes are put in my path to make my heart race even more because I might dispense of them too slowly. Yet I still search the corners and dead-ends of the area just in case. I don’t even remember there ever being anything to find, but I have to make sure every time! And the game doesn’t even care if I do this, there’s no consequences to whether or not I dispense of the foes quickly or slowly, if I dispense of them quickly I get there just in time to stop the baddie, but if I stop and pause for half an hour then I still get there in time to stop the baddie from unleashing Armageddon. And that rather ruins the story and utterly destroys the emotional impact that the game is trying to achieve. Movies have been able to invoke human emotions for a long time, but games have only recently been able to approach the level of emotions as movies. And most of the time when games try to invoke emotions, game-play features like looting tends to lessen the emotions that the games manage to invoke in the player.

This is silly.

That’s why I play Skyrim by using mods to start at max level with top equipment. I just spawn equipment into existence and finesse the difficulty settings with other mods so that its a challenge. And then I play the game without having to pick up trinkets and do the rounds between merchants to sell my junk. And I don’t spend hours deciding between what junk to drop and what to keep based on gold value per weight unit (In Skyrim if you carry too much you can’t run anymore, so it’ll take you hours to slow-walk somewhere with your loot). My roleplaying lore-excuse is that I just assume I actually walked ten trips to empty out every dungeon I cleared. And then I assume I used that money to get my equipment and house. So I effectively invent my own storyline detail where I just pretend I’m retelling the story to someone else, and foregoing the monotonous stuff that ruins the good story.

It feels like the looting system is added not because the developers had a good reason to add it, but because they never really thought about it, and thus took it for granted that there should be some loot to pick up throughout the game in all scenes. And then later in the development stage it often seems like they added more loot just to pad the length of time it takes to play through the game. Giving the false impression of there being more content than there actually is.

I hope that game developers start to think about when to not have loot as a game-play feature. Certain scenes should certainly not have it, and some games could do without. Other games can instead have loot be replaced by larger but fewer inventory rewards, like for example in a car game you don’t pick up a nut and bolt on every corner, instead you get rewarded with an entirely new race car at certain points in the game. RPGs could learn a thing from that, getting an entire set of armor and weaponry as a reward from a figure of authority, ten hours into the game, might be a lot more fitting way to get that emotional impact, compared to having the player pick up mostly useless crap throughout those ten hours and then gradually making armor and weaponry upgrades. The fewer but more significant inventory upgrades would also be a lot easier to balance in difficulty level. Often if you do something right on the inventory front then you end with way too low difficulty and then if you do something wrong in your inventory then you suddenly find it is too difficult.


String-Shooter Light Gravity Mining

Mining asteroids, dwarf planets and small moons, have some inherent issues. Chief among which are:

  • Weight
  • Parts replacement
  • Programming

The issue with weight is obvious, any mass you bring with you is going to cost a lot, so a mining vehicle has to be very lightweight compared to the mass it can mine in its lifetime. A major issue here is that only a tiny  fraction of the machine is actually “wore down” once the machine finally becomes useless, because so many individual parts are used in normal operation. Once one out of three motors in the digging arm is broken, you can’t dig anymore. Once two out of four wheels are broken, you can’t move. Once the camera no longer functions, you don’t know what you should program it to do. Etc.

Parts replacement is an obvious problem as well, you can’t replace that which your machine can’t make where it is. Even if it can make the parts it then also has to be able to replace them by itself, without human help.

And the entire mining operation has to be programmed from afar, with the issues of light-speed lag that involves. If you order your machine to perform a certain digging operation and the ground turns out to be harder than expected, or that an unexpected rock means said operation can not be done, you may find that you get a picture after the operation was supposed to be complete, that shows your mining equipment has toppled over or stopped mid-operation because sensors detected something was about to go wrong.

Therefore I suggest a new mining vehicle design especially for low gravity worlds (asteroids and dwarf planets like Ceres, and possibly as heavy as our Moon). It is basically a string-shooter:

You shoot a wire out across the landscape, and the bit that rubs the ground on the way back then brings dust with it. This dust is then collected and sorted by density in a centrifuge, then refined in another machine or simply piled up sorted by density.

Some advantages of this design:

  • The wire is wore down gradually, very evenly. So you can run this until the wire is worn extremely thin before replacing said wire. Whereas a shovel-based excavator design will not be able to function as soon as the shovel is partly worn, or when the wheels or tracks are worn enough to risk the links breaking.
  • It relies on only one motor, with a free-spinning wheel opposite the driven wheel. Whereas other designs rely on at least two or three motors, which wear unevenly (note your machine with three motors then stops functioning if one motor fails, it does not run on 2/3 efficiency). So this string-shooter design can have multiple motors driving the wheel, thus only reducing the performance as motors fail and are discarded.
  • The wire mechanism can double as the mechanism that moves the vehicle. Several methods can be employed to do this, depending on the gravity level. In very light gravity the kinetic energy of the wire itself can be used to lift the vehicle in bounds and leaps in one direction or another. Simply stop the wire, aim the string-shooter, then start it, then stop it. You can also lay out wires in one direction and tug on them all at once to get pulled in said direction. Assuming of course you designed the proportions of your wire and machine to fit your gravity.
  • To anchor the vehicle you only need some spare mining wires and a mechanism that allows you to switch which wire is being shot out of the string-shooter. The anchoring wires are shot out by the string-shooter on low power when you arrive. Each time you shoot out a wire in more directions you can increase the power, eventually you have cycled through them enough to have many wires laid out at full length across the surface. The friction of these wires keep your machine from toppling over when mining at full power with the last wire. As wires are worn out you simply use them as anchoring wires instead of mining wires. To move you pull them back a little at a time to reduce the length of each one across the landscape, otherwise you may topple over when you try to pull back the last wire.
  • To program this is very easy in day-to-day running operation. The wire will deflect off anything solid so you can pretty much just tell it to run continuously in one direction for days at a time. Meanwhile with a traditional digging mechanism each action has to be thought-out and programmed from Earth, and then some portion of those actions will be cancelled by sensors detecting something unexpected (such as an unexpected amount of force on the digging arm). The only human interaction it really needs in daily operation is that the wire occasionally has to be used in reverse to clean the solar power panels.
  • I have an hypothesis that it may be best to use a heat-based energy system, heat-exchangers that heat some gas up that is run through gas turbines, because that will provide mechanical force to the wheel even if a solar flare fries the entire computer system. So even if there is a complete systems failure the machine will collect and sort dust until the wire fails or gas turbine fails. There are some mechanical methods you could use to make the machine change to the next wire if a wire fails, even if the computer is fried (A mechanical RPM sensor that latches onto the next wire once the RPM exceeds that of normal operation). The main reason why I think this might be better, even though photovoltaics is probably more reliable, is because once the machine is utterly broken you end up with pipes, heat-exchangers and gas-turbine parts left over, not a heap of broken photovoltaic cells which are no use to anyone who might be based around said broken mining vehicle. So if you use the same standard parts in this mining vehicle as your habitat module and refinery vehicle and so forth, from easily recycled alloys and plastics, then you get more use from the mass you paid to get off planet Earth.
  • The machine can also cut through big boulders if there happens to be any (explaining how is a bit too messy for this short intro to the concept). Not to mine them itself, but it can certainly make cuts that gives access for other machines to sample the contents of the boulder. I would only do this once you can make wires in-situ however.

So there you have it, probably the simplest, cheapest method to mine remotely in space. One moving part under constant use, while the motor that turns the string-shooter in a 360 degree arc will practically never fail because its not used continuously, and the mechanism that switches wires will also never wear compared to the constantly running one moving part.

Of course this can’t mine huge rocks, but as you make more wire-material where you mine, you can simply make the wire larger with more surface roughness to begin picking up larger pebbles. This can be achieved by simply winding the smaller gauge wires you begin with, into larger wires. So you only ever need the machinery to make really thin wire in-situ with the elements you mine (for example magnesium). And the tool to wind wires around each other.

Philosophy · Semantics

The last nail for racism, nationalism and religion.

I was quite young when I determined that racism, nationalism and religion was quite asinine concepts. Here’s why.

Nationalism: There are 193 nation members of the United Nations, 193 countries for you to have the good or bad fortune to be born in. The odds of being born in each one depends on how many were born in each nation at the time of your birth. So lets say for sake of argument your odds of being born in your specific nation was 2%. Why are you then tied to that nation above all others, when you are overwhelmingly likely to have been born elsewhere? What are the odds you were born in a nation that is so good, compared to all the rest, that you should be proud of your nation at all? Aren’t you better off by having a nuanced view of how good your nation is compared to all the rest, so you can pick and choose the best bits of how you do things, from all the nations of the world? Why hold the way things your nations do things, above the rest, just because you had the circumstance to be born on one side of a made-up line in the landscape that isn’t really there? Should I, the Norwegian, refuse to adopt a specific practice that Sweden adopted, that is clearly better than we are doing in Norway, just because I hold the view that Norway is overall better than Sweden? Furthermore, where you were born was random, it is nothing to be proud about, you did not cause it, you did not earn it, and you probably weren’t born in the “best” nation even if you selectively nitpick which things to base such a definition on.

In practical terms, every act of a nation should be judged individually. For example, Norway made an excellent decision to start the sovereign wealth fund with the oil money profits. Any nation that did not start a sovereign wealth fund with their natural resources, made a stupid decision. It doesn’t matter how proud and patriotic you are about lets say the state of Texas, they should’ve been the world’s richest nation by the way of making a sovereign wealth fund with their natural resources, but they didn’t, so they aren’t. And the actions of individuals should not be tied to national status. An American who does something great is held up as an example of all Americans, yet the 2 million incarcerated Americans are not held up as an example of all Americans, surely the warm fuzzy feelings of nationalism can be replaced by something more useful, no?

Racism: I make the same argument. The odds of being born your specific race is only so many percent, so why do racists choose to believe that their own race is the “best” one? Shouldn’t the majority of racists think some other race than their own, is “the superior race”? I mean if 1 out of the X amount of races, are the superior one, shouldn’t some portion of every race recognize this? Shouldn’t some white skinheads at some point recognize that certain african nations are dominating certain Olympic sports, and then go “Maybe the Africans are the superior race? After all they have not lived with farming for 10 000 years, they can run down and tire out antelopes on the savanna and can go outside in the sun without major risk of skin cancer.”. That more than 99.99% of racists think that their own race, is the superior one, is a huge nail in that concept. Even if one race is somehow better than another in one or another aspect, the fact that everyone is simply proud to be their own race makes it entirely asinine and absurd. They didn’t cause themselves to be born that race, so even if your race is the “best” one you just randomly happened to be born in it, you can’t be proud over it. If you have to dig that deep for something to be proud about, that you go down to nationality or race, then you really have to take a second glance at your life choices. What do you spend daily hours on that leads to some sort of feeling of progression and accomplishment?

Religion: There are hundreds of known currently practiced religions, and loads more different versions of these. There are untold thousands of religions that have died out or otherwise evolved to become other religions. The odds that you were born in your specific religion is very small, yet most people don’t change their religion in adulthood after they have had a chance to investigate some of these other religions. Most people will stick with the religion they were born into, and be utterly convinced that’s the correct one, out of all the religions out there. Most will never truly investigate other religions. And no one will investigate ALL the religions out there before making a decision. People have argued with me about this on the basis that “Well its about faith, I have faith that my religion is the correct one”, and I have responded; “Well if there are more religions than you could truly study in ten lifetimes, to make a proper decision, how could God be mad about you choosing the wrong one, or no religion at all, given that God is presumably the one who decided the human lifespan?”. Most religions don’t even have the original texts anymore. Just doctored versions translated and changed for the modern times. Try reading an older bible, its in Latin, and it has way more contradictions than todays mass volume versions because only Priests were supposed to read them. And if you go even farther than that, the bible was really assembled by some group of church people deciding which letters and copies of letters to base the book on. So some stories had dozens of versions, and these people just selected which one were to go into the “official” bible, yet obviously a true bible for an informed christian would have to contain all versions of said story, would it not? But paper was expensive back then, so “hey lets just select one of the stories that we like, and burn the rest”. Yet I have met a lot of people who are truly unaware that the bible and other religious texts were ultimately assembled and selected, edited and copied (and copied wrongly by mistake and intent) and translated, by human beings, human beings who often had a pretty penny and a lot of power to be made, if the end product was a certain way. These people are also unaware that religion in the olden days held the place of both law and government, and that when you take out the law and government stuff because civilized man and woman have other institutions for that now, then there is pathetic amounts of “soul and morals” stuff remaining. When you remove the bits about what to do about someone who steals bread and kills a slave, then you are left with minor ethical tidbits and “how to get to heaven” stuff that is just hugely inadequate. These minor tidbits are obviously written for a time when paper was too precious to actually write on for impoverished religious institutions (most of the time historically speaking, religious institutions were quite poor and had to have a tight belt to keep things running). There’s more ethics stuff in a single modern chapter of a normal school book for a philosophy class, than there are in entire religious texts like the bible. And Star Trek nerds write 100 page essays detailing some minor aspect of a single ethical conundrum in a Star Trek episode, whereas religions mostly do one or two paragraphs on any concept, leaving tons of things unresolved. If someone TODAY invented the first religion, he would have to have thirty volumes of 1500 pages each, with diagrams and pages upon pages of citations that painfully define every word used. And that is just to have some minor chance of being accepted by internet nerds who will comb that text for inconsistencies, fallacies and unfounded assumptions. And this would have to be painfully translated correctly to some 200 languages, most of which the original author can not speak himself, so he’ll have to find some way to prevent the translator making mistakes that change the meaning ever so slightly. But because religions were invented long ago, we sort of don’t care that they hold less information than a USB-cable safety pamphlet. You wouldn’t be convinced to buy a toaster by a priest’s inconsistent, vague and grammatically meaningless sentences full of words he does not define properly, but he’ll convince you how to “save your soul”. That is preposterously insane. And I’m not targeting one religion here, I’m targeting all of them. Its preposterous that there are so many religions that even after thousands of years one would still not be an expert in all of them, and even then we would probably lack the brainpower to contain all that information in one single thought at one time, to make a proper decision on which one is “most correct”. That rather means that ignosticism is the only correct choice, ignosticism is the stance that you refuse to discuss whether or not a certain religion is true or not, before the terms are properly defined. And that would disqualify all religions at this time. Pretty much because the original texts are all written by third grade primary school equivalents in grammar and reasoning skills.

These were my Sunday thoughts. Good day.

Off Topic

The Great Lack of Modern Science in Science Fiction.

(image from one of my favorite sci-fi games)

There have been made materials effectively invisible to photons (light) of certain frequencies. Metamaterial cloaking is the term. It is not unreasonable to expect that in time, a civilization can make materials that are invisible to a wide range of frequencies of light, for example all the visible light spectrum. Can you imagine what story elements it opens up if cloaked invisible items are cloaked by default when built? But instead even sci-fi published tomorrow and I bet ten years from now, still maintains the premise that cloaking of any sort is done with a “field” of some sort, and that if you stop putting energy or effort into that field, then the object reverts back to its default visible state. It may be a natural assumption to make, because objects are generally visible as their default state, but sci-fi writers should keep up with cutting edge science. Or else they can no longer call their work “science fiction”, it will just be fiction. Or maybe we need to invent a new genre, some designation which means; “this would be science fiction if written long ago”.

Another thing; Aging is comprised of seven biological processes, which are the causes of the diseases old people get (cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, arthritis, diabetes, wrinkles, etc). There’s a huge field devoted to intervening in these processes, called rejuvenation biotechnology. These scientists expect (not hope) that the first person to live to a thousand years of age (looking 25), is already alive today. Simply because if you successfully give one set of rejuvenation treatments, you buy decades to improve on these treatments. After all, they are rejuvenating the patient to a younger state, not just slowing aging a bit. So if you’re 60 and are just rejuvenated by 1/6th, then you presumably still have some 30 odd years for us to improve on the treatment. Once we can rejuvenate you 30 years every 30 years, you have reached “longevity escape velocity” (LEV), since you can presumably remain young indefinitely then.

You may argue all day about when a civilization’s technological development reaches LEV, but a civilization is going to reach LEV long before they become an interstellar civilization. All civilizations with type 1 kardashev scale status, will have reached LEV. There may be population within that civilization that for whatever reason chooses to not take rejuvenation treatments and die from cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia and so forth, but the ones you meet out there among the stars, will mostly have LEV. To not have LEV in the civilization you write about in your science fiction work, must be explained thoroughly. Maybe the civilization has some religious objection or has a violent nature where murder is so commonplace and accepted that people just never encounter aging, no matter what it is, it must be explained. Or else we may just think you don’t have LEV because of your ignorance about 21st century science.

I must point out that LEV offers an innumerable amount of new stories to be told. I am utterly sick and tired of reading about civilizations without LEV. Even my favorite computer-game trilogy Mass Effect would be ten times better if LEV was in there. It very nearly is in there in the form of two species that live a very long time (Krogan and Asari), but then we can’t explore what the industrious Salarians would do with LEV. The Salarians have very short lives normally, so they act and think fast, though act wisely, and they would keep this fast-paced behavior with LEV, but they would each have centuries more expertise and practice at wise quick action. Now that would be an interesting civilization. Furthermore, the Geth, a civilization of artificial lifeforms, they have LEV, effectively, but we never hear about them from that perspective. Probably because the writers are human beings without LEV, incapable of thinking of thinking about it from an LEV perspective without a prompting (or swift ass kick) such as this post right here.

Even if your story doesn’t use LEV itself as a main story element, its still going to be a huge part of the world. For example, Faster Than Light (FTL) travel is going to be measured in use against slower than light travel (STL). Because not everyone in the civilization can afford to go quickly, because it takes an enormous amount of energy. Whereas some can’t afford to go slowly, because they are psychologically incapable and/or their task has a pressing time schedule. Interestingly there will be an elite group in both groups. The slow travelers will have an elite who go slow because they’re mentally fit for it and because they are wise enough not to waste their accumulated resources just to “drive fast” (if you have a lot of stuff to bring with you it costs more to go fast than if you don’t have a lot of stuff to bring with you). And the other elite will go fast because they’ll be getting a lot for their trouble if they get where they’re going, very quickly. The poorest will be the ones in the middle of the speed at which they travel between solar systems and galaxies. Those who don’t own so much stuff that its very costly to go a little bit quickly, but they don’t get so much in return when they get to their destination that its worth going really fast.

FYI; Any civilization is going to have LEV before they have FTL. So even if they travel around like a Star Trek spaceship at your point in the story, they made the first interstellar colonization efforts with STL travel and patience. That should give you some indication that if you want to write warlike and rash aggressive species into your story, then you need to remember that their aggression and warring behavior is going to have a significant patient agenda and plan behind it. Even if individuals your characters meet, stick out as short-sighted simpletons, the real movers and shakers will by necessity be the ones who had long term plans and patience. Because the ones with less forward-looking plans were murdered and otherwise disposed of as leader material by the ones in power when your story happens. LEV affords “baddies” a whole swath of new ingenious ways to patiently succeed with evil plans.

Space farming. There is just no actual need for an interstellar civilization bring an actual farm into space, nor do farming where they settle. Already now people like Solar Foods are making nutrients artificially. And therefore big space farms and generational ships and such, that’s just dead, that’s stuff for sci-fi works in the past, not sci-fi written today. Interstellar civilizations probably use some amount of space farming to boost morale, but their primary dietary requirements will be met from artificially created nutrients. It should be mentioned that there’s no real reason you would, in an interstellar civilization, be able to distinguish bread made from artificial starch from the “real” thing. Sure we may be able to distinguish between artificial meat and the real thing today, but we’re not even a planetary civilization (we don’t truly control even one planet), an interstellar civilization controls many solar systems. So their artificial nutrient technology will be sufficiently advanced so that the only way to tell is cost of the food (Insert the new cliche scene where someone sells an artificial steak or bread as the real deal, to make it clear to the reader how untrustworthy he is).

Onto another topic. Sci-fi writers tend to assume that evolved behavior will still be present very much in interstellar species. By that I mean that the species innately falls into fallacious arguments and make decisions largely based on cognitive biases. It should be noted that these cognitive biases are largely based around saving calories by making intellectual shortcuts.

An interstellar civilization is going to have something called introspectral magnitude levels (spectre levels for short). Spectre level zero is when you make a decision to the best of your ability. Spectre level one is when you take a look at the brainscan data of your spectre level zero decision, and use that data which perfectly points out every molecular event that led to your decision, to make a new decision to the best of your ability. That decision may be the same as the previous one, but it won’t be based on the same reasons, if that is the case. Spectre level two is when you again take a look at the brainscan data from spectre level one, to make a new decision, and so on and so forth. This is the only reliable way to control the quality of the actions of your deterministic brain.

Right now, most human beings could spend thousands more calories a day on the decisions we make. But we still have tons of cognitive biases, every one of which makes some energy-shortcut in our thinking. The biggest fundamental difference between a primitive civilization and an advanced civilization, will be how much more energy their brain consumes. How much energy the brain allows itself to consume on a decision (before making a stupid one), how much energy the brain allows itself to consume on trying to think of a novel solution (before giving up), how much energy the brain allows itself to consume while discussing with other brains (before punching them in the face). Therefore, in the opening moments of a book I do not want to see a so-called “very advanced civilization”, reach something called terminal conversation value.

I wrote this because I hope to one day read sci-fi where I don’t feel like it was written in the 1800s.

PS: In a hundred billion years or so, travel between galaxies is going to become impractical because of the expansion of the universe. So at least some portion of the civilization you write about, is going to be intent on making preparations for surviving the eventual end of the universe. Maybe none will be mentally fit to exist for that long, but some will certainly give it a good try.

PPS: A brain doesn’t fill up with memories, you just forget memories that the brain hasn’t spent calories maintaining.

PPPS: To make it clear, with LEV you’d literally look 25 years old, not older and older until you sit inside a hollow curved horn on the wall.

PPPPS: There’s no one who would force you to work your current job for 150 billion years, unless you are stupid enough to take up a loan that you thought you’d never have to pay back, “Because I’ll be long dead by the time I have to start payments on this loan”. If that happens then maybe they’ll put you in a suicide-watch type living-arrangement, so that you can not escape your debt when you realize you can’t pay them back faster than interest accumulates.

PPPPPS: If we had a global 1 child per person policy, then we’d stop at 10 billion people, even if we had LEV right away. There’s tons of stories to be written about all the issues surrounding the implications of making a child when that child potentially has to live until the end of the universe.